It’s pretty clear that Steph Curry, even at 35 years old, is still one of the best players in the league. The man is averaging 29.4 points on 47.9 percent shooting, still very much capable of carrying the heaviest load for the Golden State Warriors.
It’s also clear that Curry won’t be this good forever. That’s why the Warriors must maximize whatever time their franchise player has left to win even more championships. To do that, Curry needs some help.
In their past championship teams, the second option for the team was clear. It was either Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson. Unfortunately, Durant is no longer on the team and Thompson is having one of the worst seasons he’s had since his rookie year.
That’s why maybe it’s time for Golden State to look past Curry’s Splash Brother and see which player should be given the responsibility to carry a heavier load next to Curry. Here are three options for the Warriors to choose from.
The second-best Warrior during the 2022 NBA Finals wasn’t Thompson - it was Wiggins. He held things together as the team’s glue guy while Curry torched the Boston Celtics. Wiggins did everything that was asked of him and put up numbers better than Thompson. That should have been the perfect transition for Wiggins to slowly ascend to the ranks and take over as Curry’s new wingman.
Unfortunately, Wiggins missed most of last season to tend to a personal matter. Because of that, the Warriors reverted to their old pecking order, and when Wiggins returned, he had to take his place behind the team’s more established stars. That stunted his growth and this season, Wiggins is back to being lost in the shuffle.
The problem with Wiggins has always been his lack of consistency. There are some games where he looks like one of the best players on the floor, playing with an aggression that matches his physical tools. Then, there are times when he’s just floating around, purposeless. Wiggins has been more of the latter this season. He’s averaging only 12 points on less than 42 percent shooting, far from the numbers he was reaching in the past few seasons in Golden State.
That’s probably what’s stopping the team from fully trusting him as one of the leaders of the team. If Wiggins can regain his form from the 2022 finals, then it will force the Warriors to once again look his way. Right now, that remains a very big if.
At this point in his career, maybe what Curry needs is not someone who he can set up, but rather someone who can set him up so he’s free to go supernova on teams. That’s probably why Paul was brought in by the Warriors in the offseason.
Paul is a step slower given his advanced age. The drop-off in speed and athleticism is evident in how his scoring numbers have also taken a plunge. But he’s still an elite set-up man. His basketball IQ remains unrivaled and his passing skills fit so well in the misdirection-filled playbook of the Warriors.
The Warriors run so many sets designed to spring Curry free. Because of that, they need intelligent players who can deliver the correct pass to the spot Curry will be in to give him the best chance at hoisting up a shot. CP3 is one of two players who fit that role perfectly.
Unfortunately, the Warriors are still trying to figure out how Paul works best on the team. He’s only started in five out of the team’s 14 games and has operated mostly as the designated parent of the young second unit.
With Draymond Green out due to suspension, Paul has started in three of the last four games and his numbers have slightly picked up. His performance in the Warriors’ win over the Rockets, where he notched a double-double of 15 points and 12 assists with only one turnover, should give the team an idea of what they have in Paul. He should be playing with Curry, not backing him up.
This might be a stretch but close your eyes and imagine.
Think of a tall, hyper-athletic player who can play both forward positions. Now imagine that player as a finisher who can work off the ball, exploiting the attention Curry gets. Or, imagine that same player as an explosive slasher who can get to his spots with ease.
Sounds like KD, right?
This isn’t to say that Kuminga is as good a player as Durant, but in the rare instances that he’s given the opportunity to stretch his wings, Kuminga has shone brightly. In one of their recent losses to the Thunder when Curry was out, Kuminga played an excellent game, scoring 21 points on 61.5 percent shooting. Kuminga is playing the same minutes as he did last season but he’s scoring more as the leader of the second unit.
He’s one of the few players on the Warriors who’s athletic enough to blow by his defender with or without the ball. That gives him the ability to finish off the ball or create opportunities when he does have the ball. He also has the size to play the power forward position and be a lob or post-up threat.
I know things are looking rough in Golden State but I do like the flashes I've seen from Kuminga, looks comfortable off the PnR, comings off the screen and re-screen into the jumper.— Mo Dakhil (@MoDakhil_NBA) November 19, 2023
Then just the easy kick-out to Podziemski for the three. pic.twitter.com/FlmBV0IId5
Kuminga still has a lot of work to do to clean up the rest of his game. His averages have dropped to just 43 percent from the field and 17 percent from beyond the arc. But that’s something more playing time, especially alongside a real threat like Curry, can fix. The real question is are the Warriors ready to take him seriously as a foundational piece of the roster?